PSG and Adrien Rabiot contract saga turns ugly but what does the future hold?
Adrien Rabiot was supposed to become a shining example for Paris Saint-Germain. The Paris born-and-bred academy graduate who spent his whole career at the club, became a record breaking captain and won trophy after trophy while bleeding red and blue for the cause.
But things have turned ugly between the French champions and the 23-year-old midfielder.
PSG's sporting director, Antero Henrique announced in an interview with Yahoo on Monday that Rabiot has been banned from the first-team squad until further notice. Or until he signs a new contract, that is.
Rabiot's current deal runs out in June 2019 and he told the club last week that he was not going to sign the lucrative new terms offered to him. Instead he wants to leave on a free in the summer.
As far as Paris' hierarchy are concerned, Rabiot is not a PSG player anymore. He will continue to collect his salary but will never play for the first team again. Henrique is now hoping that he can sell the midfielder in January -- in a similar way to how Arsenal sold Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United with fewer than six months left on his contract.
Indeed, Rabiot is a much sought-after player. Barcelona believe they are the front-runners, but Liverpool, Tottenham and the two Milan clubs are also very keen. Ideally, PSG would want at least €20 million for him in January -- which would be used straight away to buy another midfielder -- but the dynamic is totally different for Rabiot, of course. If he waits for his contract to end, he will get a huge signing-on fee from his new club. But he also can't afford not to play until next season, so it is probably better for him to leave as soon as possible.
Whatever happens, it's a blow for PSG. They had invested a lot of time and effort in trying to convince Rabiot to pledge his long-term future to the club. They were ready to give him a huge pay rise, a big bonus and to make him a key part of the squad.
Even PSG manager Thomas Tuchel showed he rated Rabiot by giving him the captain's armband earlier in the season. He could see his potential and, while he was not personally involved in the talks over a new contract, the German privately told Rabiot how much he liked him as a player.
But cracks started to appear in the Tuchel-Rabiot relationship in October. Rabiot's lack of discipline, as he arrived late for training and team meetings, was a sore point and the straw that broke the camel's back came ahead of the game against Marseille at the end of the month. Rabiot and Kylian Mbappe arrived eight minutes late for the prematch team meeting and it was too much for the manager -- both were due to start but were benched instead.
After that, Tuchel found his best tactical formation with a back three and there was less room for Rabiot. PSG's focus on team spirit didn't fit with Rabiot's selfishness, so when Tuchel was told about the club's decision to axe him from the squad he was happy to go along with it.
It's not the first time this year that Rabiot has been involved in a bust-up with his management either. Disappointed not to be part of France's 23-man squad for the World Cup, he turned down the chance to be one of coach Didier Deschamps' reserve players. He exiled himself from the national team (who went on to win the tournament) as a result.
At just 23 years old, that kind of behaviour should tell you a lot about the personality and character of Rabiot. The talent is there, the attitude not so much. The next six months will be very interesting for his development. There is a lot at stake for him and whether he chooses to stay at PSG and sit in the reserves for six months, or finds a new club in January, his next step will be watched very closely.